Friday, July 02, 2010

In Defense of Weeds

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I never trust a garden that's too tidy. Places like that worry me.

Part of this distrust comes from being an unrepentant slob, and having an ingrained suspicion of excessive neatness. (It's just not natural!)

And part of this is discomfort springs from my sense that overly-groomed gardens are wastelands, when it comes to wildlife.




If every flower is clipped off before it goes to seed, and every insect is eradicated, what will the songbirds have to eat? If every hollowed out tree is chopped down, where will the owls and woodpeckers raise their families?

I was walking down our driveway this afternoon, with a bucket of water from our greywater system (a fancy name for the spillover from the washing machine), when I spotted a pair of tiny Lesser Goldfinches in the strip of lawn that I call "The Meadow." (Nevermind that the neighbors probably call it the "Godforsaken Weed Patch.") This is a little strip of land that's decidedly difficult to mow, and which I left alone ever since I saw native bees enjoying the hawkweed flowers. It has been my plan to slowly add more wildflowers to this part of my lawn, with the hopes of providing food for the birds and the bugs. But until then, I'll be happy that the Goldfinches -- which in my mind are such a rural bird -- are enjoying the weed seeds.

So why not embrace a bit of messiness? Why not let the flowers go to seed? You might just be providing a much needed meal for a tiny wild creature.

8 comments:

Jess said...

Excellent points and great finch pics! Thanks for making me feel better about my failure to clear out my spent annuals this week! I'm really fine with a little entropy myself, but I secretly harbor some insecurities about what the neighbors will think, and this weekend I'm having company and was wishing I'd gotten around to the tidying. But now I'll just remind myself (and the guests) that I'm simply feeding my bird friends!

Barby said...

I should post pictures of my yard - or go to my blog, http://designersdetrius.blogspot.com/
and look at the recent photos of my blackberry bramble - you'll think your meadow is pristine! I agree with your thinking - as a beekeeper, so many of the important nectar sources are "weeds" - dandelions, Dutch clover, wild raspberries/blackberries. I leave off mowing as long as I can to let them get to the weed flowers in the lawn. It is funny comparing our yard to the neighbor's - they are older, with no kids, no trees, and lots of perfect grass that is mown(I kid you not) three times a week!
My other neighbors just shake their heads when I start using the dandelions to make wine, or dye, or roast the roots to add to coffee.
Remember Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote, "A weed is but an unloved flower."
Love your blog, so glad Mel "introduced" us

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

I agree with you. I love 'weeds', especially as so many of ours have turned out to be natives (although many more are not). This year for us we let just about everything go, in part because we're so busy, but also because, without our weeds, our poor Mason bees would probably starved this year. I don't want my property to look like a golf course anyway, I'd rather have the extra birds and pollinating insects. Nice photos!

Kristen said...

My reasons for pulling weeds and killing bugs are many and numerous--and while the primary is my excessive tidiness, there are functional reasons as well. Bugs keep giving my food plants diseases, and gastropods keep eating them whole. The main weed in my garden is a very aggressive vine that strangles and topples other plants. To top it all off, the only birds we really get in our garden are wood pigeons, who are far more interested in tomatoes than bugs, seeds, or weeds. In short, I keep the weeds and bugs down to keep the other pests Out, and I've already found that they don't nibble or flit from plant to plant, they infest, they feast, and they kill.

Christine said...

Yes, please keep your spent flowers around for the birds! I can't help bring up, though that keeping weedy things around to go to seed will make it more difficult for natives and other more desirable plants to grow, too. Too much competition! You've got so many other things to worry about, though and I'm a total hypocrite since my little strip of neglected lawn is the entire backyard! Hopefully the finches are happy with that.

Debbie said...

Thanks for relieving me of the guilt I've been feeling for not going out and weeding my back yard. I can now let my dear hubby feel less guilty too, by saying we are providing food for the birds.

JGH said...

I think you'd be very comfortable in my yard! We've had very little rain in southern New York lately and today I noticed that all the weeds in my yard are still green and healthy. The grass is brown and nasty looking. I think I'd rather have green weeds!

Kellyann Brown said...

I read a quote somewhere, I'm not sure exactly of it, but it went something like: "God made all plants, only humans call some weeds."

I am beginning to look at "weeds" in a new light as I am paying for "greens" (dandilion) that grow free in our backyard!

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